Beyond the Track & Field ACCtion: A Record-Setting Year

With indoor marks in the books, ACC track and field student-athletes look to outdoor season

GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) – Atlantic Coast Conference track and field teams have turned their attention to the outdoor schedule, hoping to build on a memorable indoor season that saw one national championship, 52 All-America honors for ACC student-athletes and league records fall in six events.

The echoes are still reverberating from last weekend’s NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at Fayetteville, Arkansas, where Clemson redshirt senior Natoya Goule shattered the previous meet record and set an ACC mark with her blazing 2:01.64 gold medal run in the women’s 800.

The Bowerman Trophy candidate from Clarendon, Jamaica left little room for doubt, pulling ahead of the field on the first lap and continuing her record pace throughout. Fast times and gold medals are nothing new to Goule – she captured two national championships at LSU before transferring to Clemson for her final collegiate season – but on this occasion she surprised even herself.

“My plan was to get out fast, but not that fast,” she said. “I was supposed to get out to a 28 (seconds on lap one), and it was a 27.1. Then it was supposed to be 58 (seconds after two laps), and it was 56.

“But while I was running, I saw the times, and I said, ‘I’m not going to ease up. This is a championship race, and I don’t know how far behind (the other runners) are. I’m just going run.’ ”

Goule’s 2:03.57 time at the ACC Championships on Feb. 28 hadn’t been enough, as Virginia Tech’s Hanna Green (2:03.43) edged Goule and North Carolina’s Lizzy Whelan (2:03.85) at the wire in one of the more exciting finishes in memory.

“That shook me up,” Goule said. “That told me, ‘Girl, you need to wake up and go get what you want.’ ”

Saturday’s NCAA final marked the third time this season that Goule had broken the ACC women’s 800 record. She first set the mark with a run of 202.78 at the Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York on Jan. 31,  and then registered a time of 2:02.77 in last Friday’s NCAA prelims.

While Goule was the only ACC student-athlete to capture a national championship at this year’s NCAA Indoors, others made their marks.

Duke junior Megan Clark took the silver medal in the women’s pole vault with a 4.5 meter effort (14-9) that tied the ACC record. North Carolina’s Xenia Rahn took a bronze medal in the women’s pentathlon and set a new ACC mark with 4,450 points.

“Megan was spectacular,” Duke head coach Norm Ogilvie said of Clark, who entered the NCAA ranked fifth nationally in her event. “Any time you’re seeded fifth in the country and you come out second in the country, it’s obviously a great day. We’re really thrilled for Megan vaulting as high as she did. It was clearly her best meet of the season, and it was great to see her step up to that level. Her performance shows how tough of a competitor she is.”

North Carolina’s Rahn had set the ACC Championships pentathlon meet record with a 4,273-point performance on Feb. 26, and she took it to an even higher level with her performance at the NCAAs.

“Finally the events lined up and put the marks together for one meet,” Rahn said. “I had a really good season, putting up good marks, but I finally got all the good marks at one competition. I’m really happy I got third; I didn’t really expect that.”

On the men’s side, Louisville’s Ben Williams took a bronze medal in the triple jump. Williams jumped a distance of 16.53 meters (54-2). Williams tied with ACC Championships gold medalist Manuel Ziegler, and claimed third place by achieving the distance on his first jump, as opposed to Ziegler on his second attempt.

"Ben was outstanding,” Louisville coach Dale Cowper said. "He was able to catch a couple of big jumps in round one and two, then fought through some calf cramping the rest of the night to finish third overall."

It really didn’t come as a surprise to see conference track and field student-athletes excelling throughout the postseason, for the regular season had been a record-setter in itself.

It started in early December, when Boston College senior Liv Westphal ran the women’s 5,000 meters in a league-record shattering time of 15:31.82.

Three more ACC women’s marks fell in the weeks that followed, with Miami sophomore Shakima Wimbley racing to a women’s 400 time of 51.82, Goule delivering her first record-breaking performance in women’s 800 and Florida State’s Colleen Quigley delivering a mile time of 4:29.67, which at the time ranked as the fifth-fastest in NCAA history.

The first and only men’s overall league record of the season came during the ACC Championships, where Virginia Tech’s Ziegler posted a triple jump of 16.61 meters (54-6).  The effort topped the previous record of 16.57m (54-4.5) by NC State’s Mike Patton that had stood since 1998.

Several of the new indoor record-holders were among the 2015 ACC Indoor Track and Field season’s major season award winners announced Friday. Clemson’s Goule earned ACC Women’s Track Performer of the Year honors, while Clark was voted the ACC Women’s Field Performer of the Year and Virginia Tech’s Ziegler took the ACC Men’s Field Performer of the Year award.